Meet our new faculty member: Assistant Professor of Marketing Bhoomija Ranjan

Bhoomija RanjanPhoto/Mike Lovett

Bhoomija Ranjan

As part of our series profiling new professors, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Brandeis International Business School  Bhoomija Ranjan took some time to answer questions with BrandeisNOW about her field and research. Ranjan joined the Brandeis faculty in the fall of 2017.

How did you become interested in your field/research area?

I am basically an applied economist and statistician. Right from my undergraduate days, when I majored in mathematics, I wanted to use mathematical models and techniques to understand consumer behavior and how people respond to incentives. My current research focuses on how consumers pay attention within the physical setting of a retail store, and how store managers can better utilize their space to attract maximum customers. We look at this problem by analyzing real-world data and applying mathematical models to explain something as simple as how consumers do their grocery shopping. I find that very exciting.

What was your favorite course as a college student?

My favorite courses were Optimization and Machine Learning. Optimization uses mathematical techniques and algorithms to maximize/minimize functions under some constraints. Similarly, machine learning uses mathematical modeling and computer programming to classify and analyze data. I enjoyed both these courses so much that I decided to pursue further in these areas. My current research is a direct application of both these courses. Additionally, I enjoyed Introduction to Psychology, which taught me the psychological perspective of understanding human behavior.

What has been your proudest career moment so far?

I don't think I can pinpoint one. The day I defended my thesis was one, when my advisors congratulated me as "Doctor Ranjan". That was significant, since it was the culmination of three to four years of hard work. Another was my graduation day, when my parents were in the audience and were very proud of me. Those memories stand out.

What specific question/project are you most excited to explore in your work at Brandeis, and why?

Currently, I am working with Professor Ben Shiller on estimating demand for safer cars. We want to understand how much people are willing to pay for safety features, and do these safety features truly lead to a decline in car accidents or fatalities? Again, this is an application of mathematical and economic techniques to understand consumer behavior, and I am very excited about it.

What book would you recommend to introduce others to your field?

There is no single book. For someone being introduced to the field, I would recommend "Freakonomics" by Steven Levitt and "The Reckoning" by David Halberstam. The latter book lays out the evolution of the entire US car industry, and how the oil crisis in the 70s affected the need for fuel economy. That was one of the first books that got me interested in economics and marketing. For more advanced and quantitatively inclined students, I would recommend "Bayesian Statistics in Marketing" by Allenby, Rossi & McCullough or "Keeping Up with the Quants" by Davenport & Kim. Both books lay out some economics and marketing problems and how they could be solved quantitatively.

What's your favorite book/movie/television/radio program/podcast or hobby unrelated to your field, and why?

I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I have read the entire series at least seven or eight times! I love how J.K. Rowling set up the whole magical universe, and all its details and intricacies. And Hermione Granger is one of my favorite literary characters of all time. I feel we need more characters like hers to inspire girls to pursue sciences and engineering. 

What has surprised you about Brandeis since you came to campus?

Brandeis has been such an amazing experience. Ever since I joined, each and every person has been so welcoming and nice. My colleagues are all brilliant, and yet so humble and friendly. And I see that same attitude among students as well. All my students are so smart and ask such good questions in class. And they are also great to talk to. I am really lucky to be part of such a vibrant and friendly community!

What advice do you have for students who are interested in your field?

Data Analytics is a booming field right now. It’s evolving very rapidly, and all of us working in it recognize the need to keep learning new techniques. It’s both challenging and exciting. I would say that students who are interested in it should have this hunger to learn new things, and not just in any one field. They would need to learn mathematics, economics, computer science, maybe a little psychology, and apply it to their data problem. This is a very application-oriented field, and we are looking for innovative thinkers who can apply a variety of techniques to solve problems fast.

Categories: Business, Research

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